Clay Gulgong 2024


I have just returned from a week away at a highly regarded ceramic convention that has been happening in the small town of Gulgong, NSW for many years, started by the great Janet Mansfield and kept alive and well by her daughter in-law Bernadette Mansfield.

Clay Gulgong was a huge event for me this year as I had been selected to be one of 7 contestants in 'Throw Down Under' hosted by the fabulous Keith Brymer-Jones who is the host of the well known U.K. Television series 'The Great Pottery Throwdown'

What an amazing experience it was! Keith was a gem and it was as though he had stepped out of the TV to come and play with us. He is just as sincere and passionate about clay and potters as we see him on the tele.

Each day had 2 challenges. The morning was a 'Time Challenge' and the afternoon a 'Main Challenge'

Day 1.

'Time Challenge' was 20 minutes to make as many sake cups of consistent size, shape and design.

We had an audience of about 100+ people. I was SOoooo nervous that I was shaking like a leaf, the clay was very stiff and my bad shoulder was complaining. I was shaking so much that as fast as the clay began to centre it went off again. It truely was a CHALLENGE for me. Below was my result.


Day 1.

'Main Make Challenge' was to make a piece that depicts an emotion.

I decided to embrace my emotions from the morning and made a sculpture of myself feeling vulnerable about my work and Keith being very supportive and compassionate about the process.


Once I realised there was not going to be an elimination process and that we would all be there throughout the week my nerves settled a little. I then embraced the experience as a pub show performance.


Day 2.

The morning was a blindfold challenge!

12 minutes to make a bowl blindfolded.


Result below

Click IMG for video link below

Day 2.

Main Make Challenge was to make a set of 6 bowls.

I chose to make small cut rim ice-cream bowls.


And this time I WON the challenge!!!!!


Day 3.

'Time Challenge' was to make 3 orchid pots .

Large 1.5kg. Medium 1kg. Small 500g.

10 minutes to throw three orchid pots with a rolled rim!


Click IMG for video link below

Day 3.

'Main Make Challenge', was to make a set of 6 mugs of our own design.


Day 4.

'Time Challenge' was 8 minutes to throw a closed sphere.


Day 4.

'Main Make Challenge' was to make a vase at least 20cm tall that was a refection of yourself.

So I made a vase that was the shape of me but was also a wood kiln with a removable chimney as I am a woman who wears many hats in my daily life. When the chimney is off it can hold a large bunch of shorter seemed flowers and when the chimney is on it holds tall flowers. The carving depicts my family and friends around the kiln enjoying the garden and the star filled sky.


Day 5.

'Time Challenge' was to throw a narrow necked bottle in 8min (I am sorry I haven't got an image for that one).

The final 'Main Make' was to play to our strengths and make something that we love to make.

I made all of the contestants in their finest moments over the week with Keith larger than life in the centre saying "You are ALL bloody brilliant!'


What a huge week! Sadly I didn't get a chance to watch any of the masters demonstrating or hear many talks. I was totally exhausted each evening after performing from 9am-3:30pm without a break for 5 days but it was also a wonderful -once in a life time- experience.

ROHDE were the sponsors that provided the wheels for us to use over the week.

Benjamin Rohde came and gifted one of their amazing top of the line wheels as a prize. Keith said it would be unfair for such a big prize to go to only one of us so he made the call to draw a name out of a hat. Congratulations on winning the amazing wheel Nicole!

Paul Good from Interdec in Adelaide S.A. gifted all seven of the contestants a bottle of Gold Lustre. We all won GOLD!

Zeynep Testoni, James Dickman, Simone Young, Mieke Van Sambeeck, Nicole Lotscher, Bill Powell and me . Thanks all it was a BLAST!

All the other wheels were sold at the end of the week.


This lady was very excited to buy the wheel I was using.


On top of all of that I had a solo exhibition which ended up opening on the second last day of the festival. This was a special award I had been given by Bernadette Mansfield at my graduation from ANU in response to the sculptures that I had developed for my MA degree. Such a privilege! Although the show didn't end up opening until late in the week and was open for only half a day, it didn't really matter as by that time everybody knew who I was from the 'Throwdown' so lots of people came along and it was wonderful. I had to duck out between challenges to set up and give my speech but that is the nature of Clay Gulgong, we embrace the clay and the chaos. I was so chuffed and I felt very supported and appreciated. Thank you so much to all who managed to come along.


My Speech for the exhibition opening.

I will start by thanking Mansfield Ceramics for the opportunity to exhibit at this fabulous Clay Gulgong event.

I feel both daunted and excited to share my work with my beloved clay community. Bernadette Mansfield presented  me the chance to exhibit here as part of an award I received when I graduated from ANU with my Masters degree in 2019. Alas covid hit and it was all delayed a few extra years.

So here I am now. Although I have been exhibiting with my siblings for the past 30 years, this is the first time I have shown my work specifically to my mud loving peers.

As you can see I have chosen to focus on my sculptural work for this show. The award I was granted was in response to the figurative sculptures that I developed for my graduation. So it seemed appropriate that I should show work that was predominantly figurative to demonstrate how that work has developed since my graduation.

I have a large and complex family and a background in music and theatre so it is not surprising that my sculpture draws on my experience. I am not trying to create perfect representations of the physical body but rather I am aiming to spotlight scenarios that suggest life being lived. Movement, gesture, relationships and the drama of every day life are what I am focused on. I have kept the process very raw for this reason.

Domestic ware is also an important part of my practice so I thought it was important to include some representation of it here.

I regard my domestic ware as sculpture to be used and unlike my sculpture I like this work to have a finish that is nice to hold.

I find it very satisfying to make work that communicates with others through touch and daily life.

I am firing in a very dependable Rohde electric kiln and also in my -never a dull moment- extended throat bourry-box wood kiln, which was designed by my long time mentor Sandy Lockwood. I proudly built my kiln almost single handedly during the covid lockdown (however I was slow and it did take this old girl a whole year to complete!)

You can read more about that in my blurb on the wall or you can look at my web site and I am also happy to chat about that process in person.

Once again thank you to Bernadette and the Mansfield team for this opportunity and thankyou to every one who has come here today.

and below is the BLURB that I put on the wall


So it has been a huge couple of weeks preparing and participating in this event and I feel very fortunate to have had this opportunity.

It was also a highlight to catch up with my friend Joanne and my daughter's friend Mahalia.


Lilli Pilli Studio News

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Clay Gulgong 2024
9 Jul 2023
Becoming good friends with my kiln, "Sandy-Lucinda"
11 Aug 2022
Retirement From Teaching At Lilli Pilli Studio
6 Feb 2022
A wet start to the year
1 Jan 2022
2022......ok lets see if we can find a happy place in this challenging world!
11 Oct 2021
A Woman And Her Kiln
24 Aug 2021
Lockdown Life - A Potters Project
14 Jul 2021
Grounded- My Wilcannia Life - Karin Donaldson
18 Feb 2021
2021- A slow start but a good one
30 Sep 2020
2020 - A year that won't be forgotten

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